Q&A and Video Interview with Gary Davenport, VP IT, Allstream & President, CIOCAN (the CIO Association of Canada): CATA’s CEO, John Reid talks to Mr. Davenport about the CIOCAN support for the Digital Adoption Campaign
December 13, 2013

John Reid

Last month, the National Board of the CIO Association of Canada voted overwhelmingly in favor of supporting the Digital Adoption Campaign.  We are very pleased that CIOCAN will bring the collective influence of hundreds of CIOs to bear on this very important issue. So what does it mean for CIOCAN to support the Digital Adoption Campaign?  

Gary Davenport

As CIOs working in all sectors and all industries across Canada, it has largely been the nature of our jobs to support digital adoption  -  and always with the focus of technology  in support of business and organizational goals.   As an association, CICOAN is now taking it to the next level, promoting the use of digital technologies in support of Canada’s economy and wellbeing.

I would say that one of the CIOs’ primary functions in this regard is educating our C-suite Peers and Boards of Directors.  There are so many powerful and exciting digital technologies available to us now, to help us all aspects of business.   We need to be aware of which ones are appropriate to the needs of our particular organizations, and we need to make the business case for their adoption.   We need to be in continuous conversation to understand the business needs, to recognize opportunities, and to develop and communicate a shared vision.  This is a tremendous responsibility, both in terms of financial impact and in terms of providing a competitive edge for our companies.  The CIO Association has been working for several years to help its member CIOs raise their visibility and their influence with their C-Suite Peers and Boards of Directors, giving them tools and information to support the critical conversations that help build trust and working relationships.    We’re now working with oversight organizations such as the Institute of Corporate Directors to carry the message further.

John Reid

How do you know that the C-suite and board need educating?  Aren’t they up to speed on technology?

Gary Davenport

We recently partnered with IDC in their “Top Executive Survey”, and they found that that CEOs who “get IT” differ significantly from those who don’t in a few ways.

IDC created a measure of "IT Engagement" among executives based on their understanding of 3rd platform technologies, such as Cloud, collaboration tools and so on.   While only 27% of non-IT executives rated as IT-engaged, the difference in terms of their perception of IT and what it can do for the business is remarkable.  They are more likely to work in partnership with IT to develop strategies for how to use the technologies in the organization, and they see a greater expansion of IT budgets in the future. 

Clearly, board members who “get IT” are what we as CIOs dream of.  It is our responsibility to listen, to analyze where our colleagues are now in terms of IT understanding, and to help bring them along to a position of better knowledge and better-informed decisions.

The same Top Executive survey also makes it clear that non-IT executives are taking an increasing role in IT decision-making, particularly with regard to technology purchases.  Again, this can no doubt be extended to include boards of directors.  As we said in our summary report of the study, this is partly a triumph of collaboration, and partly a result of the proliferation of mobile devices.   Either way, the CIO is going to be responsible for the results, and engaging the board and non-IT executives on IT issues will continue to be a winning strategy.

John Reid

So it really is about communication?

Gary Davenport

For sure.  CIOs know that we need to create and seize opportunities and forums for communication, and this Digital Adoption Campaign is a great example of just such a forum and opportunity.

CIOs also need to embrace their roles as change agentsAdoption of new technologies inevitably means change:  in business process; in talent requirements; in governance and security models.   And there is always some resistance to change, some fear of the unknown.  CIOs need to build the relationships and partnerships to help overcome this resistance, and develop clear steps for action as part of the vision – this helps to overcome resistance and , presumably, raise digital adoption rates.

John Reid

Is this a new role for CIOs and for the Association?

Gary Davenport

It seems to me that our next evolutionary step as CIOs is in thought leadership.  We bring expertise in technology to the table, we understand the power of technology to transform business and, through our collective influence with the CIO Association, we can help transform the Canadian economy.

John Reid

What’s your call to action on Digital Adoption at the CIO Association?

Gary Davenport

It’s all about communication.  We’ve already started promoting the Digital Adoption Campaign within the CIO Association, starting with a feature on the home page of our website, continuing through our internal newsletters and blogs, and fanning out through our member networks and regional events.   We will be hosting a national webinar in which CIOs can share thoughts on how best to convey the messages of the campaign throughout our organizations.  We’ll also have some podium time at the 2014 CIO Peer Forum to be hosted in Toronto this April – and we hope that you’ll be there, John.

            Coming Soon! A TechNOW video interview with Gary Davenport